Easton EA90 SL
Review: Easton EA90 SLBy Scott Mares | Published Dec 26, 2013
Introducing the new and improved 2014 Easton EA90 SL… The heart of the new 1580 gram Easton EA90 SL wheelset is the new Easton Echo Hub. Easton Engineers have spent the last couple of years reviewing every aspect of the hub from bearing placement, spoke placement all the way down to machining in the production phase. Easton designed goal was to create a hub with industry leading durability. Easton believes that they accomplished this by taking stress off their cartridge bearings by doubling the distance between the bearings to 95mm. In order for designers to get 95mm of space between bearings, they placed the individually sprung pawls directly on the hub shell and moved the drive ring orientation on the cassette body. The pawl/drive ring orientation allows for faster engagement. The Echo hubs engagement begins at 7° opposed to 12° on the previous hubs for the EA90SL wheels. The bottom line is these hubs are designed to last for many miles ahead and get you started a hair faster.
The new Echo hub is affixed to a 20 spoke front & 24 spoke rear wheel with Sapim straight pull double butted spokes and tubeless EA90 welded alloy rim. The rims are the same depth of 25mm, internal width of 17.5mm and external width of 22mm that were used in 2013. The 2014 rims sport black hubs, black spokes and black rims with sand blasted lettering. These wheels look pretty darn good on a cross rig, they say let’s go get muddy!
Likes: Tubeless Certified Rim: The Easton EA90 SL have a solid upper rim bridge, meaning the spokes only penetrate into the lower rim bridge. The Sapim spokes use a self locking system with anti-rotation and 2 sided threading. Early in my testing, I took a few days to try mounting various tires tubeless that I had in lying around in my garage. At this time I only had 1 set of road tires, which were the Schwalbe Ultremo ZX Tubeless. In my opinion the Ultremo ZX’s are literally the easiest road tubeless tires to mount, and they easily mounted to Easton rims. Next I installed non-2Bliss Specialized Tracer Sports and an old pair of Ritchey Speedmax tires tubeless, using the technique from the Stan No Tube Installation video from 4 years ago. The Ritchey’s were not easy to install but eventually I got them to hold air. By far the easiest cross tire to install was Vittoria Cross XG Pro TNT on the EA 90 SL’s tubeless rim. The Vittoria are a designed tubeless cross tire design, they have a thick bead and mount on the rim super tight. Though it is a physically demanding tire and I did use a tire iron to get the last little bead onto the rim. Unfortunately I have spent hours trying to setup my favorite tires, a new set of 33mm Clement Crusade PDX tubeless, without success so far. I am going to try a ghetto rim strip when I find the time.
Wider Rim: Over the past couple of years the EA90 SL have a used a slightly wider rim and 2014 continues the use of the 22mm width. This width is excellent for cyclocross for two reasons a wider rim holds a larger volume of air and a wider rim also increases the stiffness of the wheel with a minimal increase weight. Over the past couple months, I have been riding a lot off-camber terrain and the slightly wider width is very noticeable on that terrain. I have been interchanging 32mm Vittoria Cross XG Pro TNT tubeless and 33mm Clement Crusade PDX, both tires showed a larger tire pattern then when they were mounted to a set my 2002 Mavic Ksyrium wheelset. The profile of the Vittoria Cross XG was about 2mm wider on the Easton’s, while the Crusade’s profile increased by just under 2mm. Although I thought both tires performed better on the Easton’s, I preferred the Clements with the EA90 SL. I found the combination of large air volume Clement Crusade PDX and EA90 SL’s wider rim width created a great tire profile, and inspired confidence riding those off-camber sections, bumpy terrain and sharp muddy 180° turns. It was really amazing how much confidence an additional 2 to 4 mm rubber can provide! Additionally one of my favorite places to ride cross, has a 100 meter paved downhill section, leading into a hard 120° left hand turn onto always sloppy/icy grass section. This turn creates a lot torque on the wheels, the wider Easton EA90 SL has been just stiff enough to drill this turn about 50 times without any spoke issues!
We Didn't Like
Minor Dislike: The EA90SL come with two presta tubeless valves stems, but the valve cores are not removable. I have been using tubeless tires for about two years now, I personally prefer shooting sealant down the valve core opposed to putting it in an open tire, it is less messy! Minor Dislike: It looks like a Stan’s No Tube conversion kits will still be needed to run some cyclocross tires tubeless despite the solid rim bridge. A couple of cross tires I tried were too loose to get them to seal. I had to build up the center with Stan’s rim tape to get Ritchey Speedmax to inflate. Using Stan’s tape I was able to get the Crusade PDX’s to hold about 30 lbs. of pressure, beyond they starting leaking like a sieve! Man they were oh so close… Moderate Concern: The day after I received my new test wheelset, I spent a chunk of time, unsuccessfully attempting tubeless setup with my new Clement Crusade PDX tires, so running out of ride time, I threw tubes into my old Clements, quickly mounted them and hopped on for a quick jaunt around the park next to my house. No more than 4 minutes into my little jaunt, I made a sharp 180 left turn, on a smooth grassy patch at about 12 mph, PING went a spoke on the front wheel. No more than a mile into the life of these wheels and the front wheels already had a visible wobble to it… The next day I decided to give the wheels a workout at David Douglas XC race. I was about 5 miles into the race, on a fairly smooth cyclocross course by Portland standards, when I noticed the rear wheel was gently beginning to rub my left brake shoe (way more than the 4/1000 of inch tolerance that Easton Allows). By the end of race I could definitely feel the brake rub! So within the first ten miles, both the front wheel and rear wheel already needed a spoke wrench! Not the best first impression… After that fateful Saturday, I trued both wheels, used a little blue lock tight on all the spokes and have ridden about 40 hours mostly cross terrain without incident. After reading the exploits of a fellow reviewer, I had no qualms jumping off curbs, hitting tree roots and riding hard over really rocky terrain without further issue. So I have chalked the first ten miles off to getting the cobwebs out.
The Final Say
I give new 1580 gram Easton EA90 SL four cow bells, I am glad I did not set my initial impression in stone! With retail price of $900, I think the Easton EA90 SL is a very good wheelset and a good option for a rider looking for just one set of wheels for training and racing on. I found that EA90 SL roll really well, they are stiff enough to be a solid wheel, with a hub set looks to be well designed. I think the wider rim lends itself really well to cross tire set ups. I can say that I really love tubeless road wheel set up, I will likely never purposely buy road clincher tire again! Cross tubeless I am not as sold on yet. The reason I like tubeless cross tires is pinch flat protection and tire sealant for blasted black berry vines! I know the southwest goat heads are everywhere, here in the Northwest we 20 foot tall black berry vines everywhere, they can be just as sharp as goat heads, they always seems to be around the trails I ride! I would like to say the Vittoria TNT give me hope for safe, reliable, performance tubeless tire, but they are not a high air volume tire, nor are they as supple as most clincher cross tires. The Vittoria’s roll incredibly well on pavement, they roll almost as good as a road tire! We haven’t seen the three Specialize 2Bliss cross tires yet but we really like their non-tubeless version, so there more hope. Reversed drive mechanism, the individually sprung pawls are attached to the rear hub shell. The drive rings are on the cassette body. The hub design not only makes for smoother more bearing performance it also increases engagement , which means you will delivered forward momentum a millisecond faster. With the Echo hub it takes 7 degrees of movement opposed to 12 degrees with the previous generation of hubs. Dear Clement could you please make tubeless version of Crusade PDX! It is a great tire, I know many cyclocross riders in Northwest who go to great lengths to run your tire tubeless.